‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Friday, October 24, 2008

I Need A Reminder: Where Is God In All Of This?

I feel spent. Completely exhausted, worn out and oh so sad. I think I need a good dose of love from friends - I need a reminder that there is good in the world.

Today was supposed to be a carefree day of catching up on emails, phone calls, laundry. I know, it doesn't sound so carefree, but I was actually looking forward to one of those catch-up-on-everything days. It didn't happen. I mean, I'm glad that I was able to help someone, but I'm also feeling overwhelmed with all that I learned today.

The mom (of the last two posts) needed a ride to a doctor's appt. She did not ask me for a ride. Her plan was to take her newborn on the bus and then walk the rest of the way to the clinic. I offered and was delighted to take her, and I actually enjoyed the doctor's visit - learning that 'Ariella' was healthy, gaining weight, and doing fine. What a relief to hear! The doctor even said that the swelling on her ear looked ok, and should resolve itself. It was a great chance for me to get to know the mom better, too, and we talked at length for the ride to and from the clinic. She was really starting to trust me, I could see, and she started answering my questions with much more relief in her voice than fear.

Obviously I can't go into details, but in brief, it turns out things have been far worse in her home than she had let on, and the more I asked, the more she opened up. I ended up bringing her back to my house so we could talk more. My friend J stopped by and we tried, again, to explain her rights to her and the help that a local agency for battered women could offer her. She sat at my kitchen table and talked for two hours, and we finally got her to agree to meet with an advocate of this agency. I drove her to the police station, and I attended the meeting with her.

For people who deal with traumatized women on a daily basis, these people were not that great at explaining things to her. I could see it all going right over her head. They threw out terms like "domestic violence" and "restraining order" and "judicial decree." The mom did not understand even one of those terms. She barely spoke English! I interrupted the advocate and said, I really don't think she is understanding you, do you mind if I explain it to her?" She looked bothered that I jumped in. Who was I? I wasn't the victim. What could I possibly add to the conversation? I asked the mom if she knew what these terms meant. "No , I no understand." was her response. I slowly and carefully explained what was meant by "domestic violence" and all the other terms that were being thrown around. She started to get it.

They later decide they wanted to use an interpreter to explain things in her native language, but when they called the language line, the interpreter was a male with a very deep, intimidating voice - much like her husband's. I tried to explain to the advocate that I didn't think she would be open with this man, but she ignored me. Well, what happened? The mom refused to talk with him and said " I no need him. You tell him hang up." She was now visibly more upset. She just needed someone to slowly, gently and patiently explain in very simple terms what the agency could offer her, what her options were. They didn't. In fact, I could see them getting antsy. They kept glancing at their watches. She said " Court closes in an hour, we need to get there soon if you want to get the ball rolling today." They offered her a night in an emergency shelter...150 miles away! The mom was just at the point where she finally felt she could open up, but was no where near ready to speak to the police, or move to an unknown place with her baby for the night.

(While we were there, I got a call from DSS, and they were looking for the dad and the twins. Evidently the dad had somehow gotten wind of things and had picked up the twins at school driven to the house, packed up three trash bags of goods, and left. They asked me to ask the mom if she had any idea where he might be. She did not.)

Anyway, in the end she agreed to go to court on Monday to file a restraining order. She was not ready to do it today. I will go with her and the advocate to court on Monday morning to help her fill out the affidavit. She knows that once this is done and the order given, her husband cannot come in the house. DSS plans to take the older two children into foster care, and then the mom will get services for the other two: daycare, parenting classes, etc. They will take care of her rent, and help her pay the bills, and anything else she needs. Ideally, they want her in other housing, where the husband cannot find her, but they explained to me that this would be many months away. There were simply too many other people, just like her, waiting for safe housing.

When we left the police station, where the meeting was held, the mom got in my car and put her head down in her hands. I was scared. I had no idea what she was feeling. "Are you ok, N?" I asked. " Yes, I just so happy. I never be this happy long time..." she said, and I could see her eyes fill up, and her whole body was shaking. I think it wasn't happiness she was feeling, but relief. She went on to tell me, in her beautiful broken English, that she never had a friend, and that " No white person ever be nice to me like this." Then she hugged me.

It would be great if the day ended there, and I went home for a nice long nap...lol....but instead, I ended up fielding phone call after phone call from the agencies involved. The DSS investigator called and needed more info, the caseworker called, the advocacy group called and needed more info. I had to help her call the insurance company to add her baby, which was a two hour event in and of itself. We had to go to WIC to get her formula, as she was out. We had to buy minutes for the pay as you go cellphone someone had given her, we had to call her cousin whom she had left the two year old with, to get an update. It was a long, exhausting day filled with sporadic truth-telling sessions on her part, concerning her husband and what she had experienced.

At one point in the day, when I was trying to get her to leave my car to enter the police station, she wept and told me that she was scared that God would not let her into Heaven if she told her husband's "business" to others. " When I die, God be angry. " I tried my best to explain that God loved her very much and that he wanted her to tell the truth, and that she would actually be helping her husband, in the end, by holding him accountable for his actions. She didn't seem to completely agree with me, but it'll take time. On a good note, I invited her to go to church with me on Sunday, and she said yes.

Tomorrow, Anastasia and I are babysitting Ariella again, so that N, the mom, can go in search of her mother. She has not seen her in five years, as her father disowned her and won't allow the mother to see her, but she is hoping that enough time has passed that they will accept her. These are the same parents who abandoned her and her sister when they were twelve and nine years old. These parents immigrated, and left their two girls in a makeshift shack in Haiti, where they raised themselves with money the parents mailed from the US from time to time. She talked of looking for food in garbage dumps, and of "bad men" that hurt them, and of falling asleep holding her sister, on the floor where they nightly slept. They had no bed.

I know that God is watching out for her, I do. But when I hear her life story, and see what she is going thru now, it reminds me of all the things I learned of my daughter's abusive and neglectful childhood, and it makes me positively rage inside. There are millions more like them in the world. Tonight is one of those nights where that truth is hitting me too hard. I can't stop crying and I just wish the whole world would go away. I can't bear it - the pain she has suffered.

And I'm only one person. As much as I care, and I DO care deeply....what can I really do for her? Where will her children end up? What kind of life will they all have? I'm just sick at heart. I've prayed and will continue to, but I feel bereft and utterly lost in the darkness of all this poverty, neglect and abuse. I wish I could share her whole story with you, but I obviously can't. But trust me, it would knock you over with it's power. It makes me literally sick to my stomach.

If you have words of wisdom, or if you are simply in a good and light-filled place right now, please share some of it with me. Tell me this will be ok. Tell me God is here in the midst of this, even though I can't see Him. I just want some kind of sign from Him that He is here, in this, around this, seeing this and in control. It just looks so dark from where I stand...


  1. There is this infinite openness that has been creeping into my comfortable world too.. I feel your pain.. praying for clarity and some free time :)

  2. What you are doing is amazing. I am so proud to know you, even if it just through the tubes. i am not a religious person but I do believe that some people are meant to be brought together. You were meant to connect with this woman. You are making an incredible difference in her life by connecting her with resources who can help and advocating for her. Keep up the great work!

  3. Anonymous5:48 AM

    keri, i see god in you. your help, your care- what a blessing for this woman and her family. miraculous.

  4. Oh Kerri,

    Can't you see? YOU were her angel, for this past week, since you have known her... God was with you all day, working through you to help her.

    I am not usually a spiritual thinker, but as I read through your post, all I could think was... "Thank God for you and your friend, J".

    Although it is not an ideal solution to her problems, you have helped your friend find safety, food, shelter, and hope. Pretty amazing.

    Thank you for sharing this story.


  5. Thank you, guys. I know now why I blog...because the support is incredible. I'm so grateful to know all of you, even if it is, as Torina says "thru the tubes"..lol.
    Jenmac, what sweet and kind words. Today I feel so much clearer. And every day the baby is with us, I know it's another good day for her, so I'm more at peace. I hope you are all showered with good things today!!!

  6. WOW...I wish I had more to say, but I'm just as blown away by all this. you are doing something I only think of doing. I read the paper and hear on the news about all the suffering in this damn world. I hear about innocent children being raped, tortured, neglected and murdered and it just breaks my heart. I don't get it. I want to help and I don't. I just sit here and feel hopeless. I have been starting to do some research on becoming a child advocate through CASA with the hopes of eventually becoming a foster mom and even adopting a child(dren). I have two of my own that desperately need so I am waiting on the time that they aren't so young and I have more time to devote to these little ones. Thank you for your courage. Your work. Thank you thank you thank you.


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